John C. Key was born in Jasper County, Georgia, February 25, 1826. He received only a common school education. He read law under Burney & Dyer, of Monticello, and was admitted in 1848. On account of a failure of health he was not permitted to begin practice until 1857. In 1859 he was elected to the State legislature and served in that body until the opening of the war. He declined a re-election which was tendered him in 1861, and raised a company of volunteer soldiers and entered the Confederate service. His company was mustered into the Forty-Fourth Georgia and ordered immediately to Virginia. He was subsequently elected major of his regiment and served through all the Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania campaigns up to the battle of Gettysburg, where he was wounded and compelled to retire for a time from the service, rejoining his command afterward, however and going with it until the close in 1865.
On his return to Monticello, he resumed the practice of law, and in 1867 formed a partnership with Joseph W. Preston which lasted for more than twenty years, being terminated in 1887 by Preston's appointment to an Indian agency on the Pacific coast.
In 1877 Major Key was sent by his county to the State legislature. He also represented his county in the State constitutional convention of 1877. In 1882-83 he was again sent to the legislature and during the session was active in the stock law and shaping prohibition measures which passed into the statutes restricting the liquor traffic in Jasper County. Besides this service Major Key has been identified with the Macon and Covington Railroad from the inception, being one of the first projectors of the road in his county and aiding largely in securing capital from the north which built (it?).
July 27, 1857, Major Key married Phoebe Allen, daughter of William Allen, of Jasper County.
Phoebe Allen Key
1831–1916 (m. 1857)